I can't believe it is July already. Last trip out, storm doors were added to front and back, and it is so nice to open the doors and have more light in the house! The bathroom floors were replaced, and the space looks so cozy. The milkweed seeds haven't sprouted yet, but I remain hopeful.
I was privileged to be asked to write an article for The Cenizo, which was published this quarter. I had so much fun writing the article, and it is really nice to be published again (it's been a long time). Below is the unedited version:
Red House, Marathon, Texas. I have a vacation rental home in beautiful, magnificent Big Bend. Pinch me - how in the world did that happen? A few years ago, I started looking for a home in the Big Bend area, where I plan to retire in a few years. I figured if I took my time, I would find the perfect place – and I did! Amazingly, this happened a few years earlier than I anticipated, and after buying Red House, I realized using it as a vacation rental to meet annual expenses until I move into it might just possibly be a brilliant idea. What an entirely new experience! Red House is so much fun, I wish I’d bought a vacation rental years ago!
Mind you, managing a property when I live a good 9-hour drive away is not the easiest thing to juggle, and I could not manage without my wonderful local caretakers. They make sure the water drips when the temperature drops, make the house ready for guests, take care of guests if issues arise, clean up after, and generally give me peace of mind that Red House is safe and sound while I’m away. My neighbors, too, are marvelous about giving me a call if they see something they think needs my attention.
Furnishing the house was fun, and took me several trips, several months apart, spacing out my precious vacation days from work. My son used to tease me when I would load up my car to head out before sunrise the next morning. “Yeah, Mom [pause] Low-Rider” was his favorite line once I closed the trunk and doors and got into the driver’s seat to make sure I could see out the back in the rear view mirror. Then came the day he was privileged to drive the U-Haul with furniture out to Red House. What is normally a 9 hour drive took 11 hours, the first 9 of which I saw nothing but the hind end of that truck. Once we left the interstate, though, I was in the lead, feasting my eyes on the wide open spaces I so love. I must live a bit of a charmed life – we made this particular trip in the middle of January, and the weather was absolutely glorious. A couple of days after we left, it snowed. What timing! Now that I’m no longer hauling in loads of stuff, I can occasionally fly and drive, and cut down on the number of those grueling 9-hour drives.
Even though it was sparsely furnished, I advertised on AirBnB, and was astounded at how many people wanted to stay in Red House. Thus encouraged, I also advertised on HomeAway (which – magically – links to VRBO), and even more people rented. Most guests are very nice and considerate, but there have been a couple of instances that were not so pleasant. Fortunately, missing glasses and silverware were relatively easy to replace, and being a stain removal wizardress, I was able to eradicate a considerable amount of dark brown lipstick from a pastel handmade quilt (thank you to the guest who did confess). Spring Break, summer vacations and holidays book fairly quickly, and most of the rest of the year just fills in. I continue to be amazed at the number of people who visit Red House, and am even more amazed that I have a couple of “regulars”. Last summer, one couple searching for a vacation home in Marathon stayed, and found the vacation home of their dreams, just a few blocks away from Red House. Small world: the wife and I grew up not far from each other in Houston. We didn’t know each other then, but we’ve since become great friends.
One friend at work asked me who would want to vacation, much less live, in Marathon, Texas? Obviously, he’s never been to far west Texas. I grew curious, analyzed my records for the first year, and discovered that seeing Big Bend is on a lot of bucket lists! Then there are wedding guests, birders, hikers, cyclists, folks visiting family, local hunters, and those who want to experience the darkest night sky in Texas.
Other folks ask me why I want to live in Red House. Usually I just smile and say that when I can drive for half an hour and see one other vehicle on the road, I’m in heaven.
Having a vacation rental property means following some stringent rules for tax purposes; there are only so many of my own vacation nights I can stay in Red House per year. I have yet to stay the maximum; I’m mostly working, doing something to improve the house or the property, and usually I drive those 9 hours home pretty exhausted, but it is so-o-o worth it! Refreshing the inside, painting, decorating, rearranging and organizing to make the most of 900 square feet without it feeling too closed in, making repairs, getting to know the yard and figuring out landscaping – all keeps me busy! Staying only a few days at a time helps me realize what my guests experience, and sparks ideas to improve their time in Red House, so I’m always thinking of ways to make it a better experience for them. Driving miles of highway and getting to know the area also allows me to make recommendations to my guests who aren’t familiar with all the things there are to do and all the places there are to see outside the immediate Marathon area. At present, according to reviews, I must be succeeding. I reiterate, I’m having so much fun, I wish I’d done this years ago!
To answer that inevitable question, “Why Big Bend?” Well, like countless others, I went camping in Big Bend when I was a senior in high school, fell in love with the area, and promised myself that someday I would live here. Lucky me, only 46 years later, I’m actually here. Hope you can stop by Red House sometime!
Susan Covington is a native Texan who has been fortunate to live all across the U.S., has traveled different parts of the world, and knows for sure that Texas is the place to live. She looks forward to retiring from nearly 50 hectic years as a legal secretary/administrative assistant so she can indulge in a few passions - fine needlework, cooking and baking (and attempting to learn those high-altitude secrets), reading, writing, and watching those glorious west Texas sunrises and sunsets. Look for her on the porch at Red House.